Consider Jesus to be eternally polite and mild-mannered. Think again. While we acknowledge Jesus as perfect love in human form, some of his statements and actions can be puzzling to us, given our limited understanding. When we reach Heaven, we’ll have the chance to seek clarification. In the meantime, let’s explore 15 enigmatic and questionable things that Jesus said or did, which continue to leave us scratching our heads in perplexity even after two thousand years.
1. Jesus Said Whoever Wants to Become Great Must Be A Servant
“Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” — Matthew 20:25-28
This message, though familiar to seasoned Christians, can pose a significant challenge for those deeply entrenched in the worldly principles of “strive relentlessly,” “guard against exploitation,” and “secure success at any expense.” In Jesus’s realm, there’s a profound inversion, where the initial positions become the concluding ones, and vice versa, as stated in Matthew 20:16.
2. Jesus Said We Are Blessed When People Insult and Persecute Us
“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Matthew 5:11-12
Likewise, in this passage, Jesus imparts solace to his disciples by revealing that persecution doesn’t necessarily connote negativity. On occasion, religious persecution can signify our resolute stand for righteousness, reflecting the strength of our faith. This isn’t an endorsement of behaving discourteously or causing unwarranted offense only to lament perceived “persecution.” Instead, Jesus is affirming that the tribulations we encounter are only sometimes indicative of straying from the right course.
3. Jesus Tells Them Do Not Resist an Evil Person
“But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.” Matthew 5:39
In this passage, Jesus is not issuing a directive for his disciples to passively accept or facilitate mistreatment, a misinterpretation some have made. Instead, Jesus imparts a lesson about responding to ill-treatment with an exceptional form of love and forgiveness, in contrast to seeking vengeance or intensifying disputes. Even when others act unjustly, we can choose the path of righteousness, refraining from retaliation and taking measures to protect ourselves and our loved ones from harmful circumstances.
4. Jesus Told Us to Be Perfect
“You Must Be Perfect” — Matthew 5:48
Our culture exhibits a peculiar duality in its view of perfection, seen in the fervent embrace of fitness and the simultaneous rejection of perfection as a manifestation of self-righteousness. Given the scriptural assertion that humans consistently fall short of perfection (Romans 3:10; Philippians 3:12; 1 John 1:8), what could Jesus mean when he uses the term “perfect” in Hebrew, which could signify completeness or wholeness? Jesus, in fact, sets a higher standard of righteousness earlier in this discourse (5:20), guiding his followers to recognize the need for an atoning sacrifice that brings completeness and bestows the Holy Spirit, enabling us to fulfill God’s law. Instead of dwelling in despair over our imperfections, Christians can find peace in the work of Christ (Phil. 4:7).
5. Jesus Tells Us to Love Our Enemies
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”– Matthew 5:43-45
Though this teaching may be familiar to Christians and non-Christians, its implications defy societal norms and can be unexpectedly profound. As followers of Christ, we are called to extend love to all, including our adversaries. This love doesn’t necessitate agreement with their actions. Still, we must approach everyone with compassion and courtesy, even when they may not appear deserving.
6. Jesus Tells Us that Even With Divorce, We Commit Adultery
“Whoever Divorces and Marries Another Commits Adultery” — Matthew 5:27-32; Mark 10:11-12; Luke 16:18.
The Western church may have forfeited its moral authority to address matters of sexuality, given its apparent acceptance of unbiblical divorces among professing Christians. Could it be that, even in contrast to the permissive Jewish culture of his time, Jesus allowed for very few exceptions to the covenant of marriage (as discussed in “Remarriage and Divorce in Biblical Perspective” by Craig Keener)? It’s possible that the church must seek repentance for its relaxation of the marriage bonds. This doesn’t imply that divorced and remarried individuals should carry perpetual shame for past choices. However, we must recognize that Jesus’ teachings on this issue have struck a sensitive chord within the church.
7. Jesus Said You’d Be Cast into Hell
“Fear Him Who Has Power to Cast into Hell” — Matthew 10:28; Luke 12:4-5
This statement appears controversial because it appears to endorse fear, a notion that modern Christians often reject as the foundation of a relationship with God (as mentioned in 1 John 4:18). Moreover, it introduces the concept of hell, which some find contradictory to the loving nature of God. It is essential to note that the term “fear” in this context holds various meanings. In the Greek language, it likely conveys a deep respect or reverence, akin to how Acts 9:31 mentions that the church “went on in the fear of the Lord.” In other instances, it appropriately signifies the profound reverence that places us in the presence of God’s holiness. Second, Jesus’ mention of hell (hades or gehenna) aligns with his broader teachings concerning God’s mercy and judgment of evil and injustice. Regardless of the existential nature of hell, both Jesus and Paul authoritatively convey that it represents God’s response to corruption and injustice outside of his kingdom.
8. Jesus Said He Comes to Bring War, Not Peace
“Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” — Matthew 10:34
This passage doesn’t advocate for taking up physical arms and initiating a war. Instead, it underscores the unavoidable outcomes of Jesus’s radical message and mission. Jesus’s teachings disrupted societal norms, religious conventions, and earthly priorities. Consequently, he recognized that his message would lead to divisions and conflicts, possibly even within families. To grasp the true meaning of Jesus’s words, we must interpret them within the broader context of his message centered on love, forgiveness, and reconciliation. While his teachings may sow division among individuals based on their responses to his message, his ultimate objective was to reconcile humanity with God and foster reconciliation among people.
9. Jesus Said You Can’t Love God and Money
“No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” Matthew 6:24
We often find ourselves attempting to accumulate more and more, following the prevailing cultural mantra. However, Jesus provides a distinct path for our lives. He encourages his followers to daily relinquish their personal desires and embrace a life of generosity. Pursuing more significant personal gain is incompatible with living a truly generous life. This teaching calls us to a different way of living, one that centers on selflessness and giving.
10. Jesus Called a Canaanite Woman a Dog
“A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, ‘Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly…’ He answered, ‘I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.’ The woman came and knelt before him. ‘Lord, help me!’ she said. He replied, ‘It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.'” — Matthew 15:22-26
This passage may appear challenging upon initial reading. Jesus’ apparent disregard for a suffering woman and his use of the term “dog” can be unsettling. However, a closer look at the context provides clarity. The term translated as “dogs” originally referred to “little dogs,” akin to pets, and was a common derogatory expression used by Jews to describe Gentiles (non-Jews). In employing this term, Jesus isn’t needlessly cruel or impolite. His intent is not to convey anger or rudeness. Instead, he tests the woman’s faith, confident that she will display remarkable faith. Immediately after this, deeply impressed by her faith, Jesus grants her request and promptly heals her daughter.
11. Jesus Told His Disciples He Talks in Parables So Outsiders Hear but Don’t Understand
“Then Jesus said, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.” When alone, the Twelve and the others around him asked about the parables. He told them, “The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside, everything is said in parables so that, ‘they may be ever seeing but never perceiving, and ever hearing but never understanding; otherwise, they might turn and be forgiven!” — Mark 4:9-12
Do you feel that the Bible should offer straightforward clarity? In this passage, Jesus conveys his deliberate intent to create a sense of complexity in his message. This might appear puzzling at first, but it underscores a profound act of love by Jesus. He assures that those earnestly seeking him will ultimately discover his presence. If you desire to embrace Christianity, deepen your understanding of God, or nurture a relationship with the divine, Jesus’s promise is one of empowerment. However, God chooses to veil or obscure his message from individuals who lack genuine belief (or have no inclination toward theology) because accountability requires knowledge. By introducing complexity, Jesus rewards sincere seekers while reducing the culpability of those unaware.
12. Jesus Said He Comes to Bring War, Not Peace
“Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” — Matthew 10:34
In this passage, Jesus isn’t urging us to wield swords for physical warfare. Instead, he’s shedding light on the inherent ramifications of his revolutionary message and mission. Jesus’s teachings challenged prevailing societal norms, religious customs, and worldly priorities. Consequently, he foresaw that his message would stir discord and disagreements, even within individual families. To grasp Jesus’s words accurately, we must interpret them within his broader message centered on love, forgiveness, and reconciliation. While his teachings might lead to divisions among people due to varying responses, his ultimate aim was to reconcile humanity with God and promote unity among individuals.
13. You Must Hate Your Father and Mother
“If anyone comes to me and does not hate Father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.”– Luke 14:26-27
Likewise, Jesus doesn’t intend for us to genuinely hate our families, which would be inconsistent with his broader teachings about love and compassion. Instead, similar to the message in Matthew 18:8-9, Jesus emphasizes our love for God, suggesting that our devotion to Him should far surpass any other attachments or priorities in our lives.
14. Jesus Said to Them Eat My Flesh and Drink My Blood
“Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” –John 6:53-58
This frequently cited communion passage remains highly contentious, reflecting a message Jesus delivered that sparked varied interpretations. Catholics believe this passage unequivocally signifies the Eucharist as the actual body and blood of Jesus. The initial audience indeed understood Jesus’s words in a literal sense. Subsequent verses reveal that many were offended, with some individuals even ceasing to follow Jesus due to this teaching. In contrast, most Protestants interpret Jesus’s words here as symbolic.
15. Jesus Told You to Cut Off Your Hand
“If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell.” — Matthew 18:8-9
In this passage, Jesus doesn’t issue a blanket command for all his followers to engage in self-mutilation. Instead, he conveys the idea that if any aspect of your life is leading you into sin, it is wiser to eliminate that source of temptation rather than jeopardize your relationship with Christ and your eternal salvation.
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